The Nationals in Egypt have seen the emergence of a new bombshell in table tennis: 11-year-old Hana Gouda of Ahly Club, reports Inas Mazhar. The Egyptian and African junior champion, ranked fifth in the world, beat Egypt’s No 2, Zamalek’s Farah Abdel-Aziz, 3-0 in the final of the women’s singles event to win her fourth Nationals title this season. Gouda had already clinched the U-12, U-15 and U-18 titles. The 27-year-old Abdel-Aziz is the Arab champion.
Gouda’s participation in the women’s Nationals was a bit fortuitous. The decision to send this young player to the den of the greats was taken by Ahly Club President Mahmoud Al-Khatib. With the club’s Dina Meshref, Africa’s champion, turning pro, Al-Khatib thought the club still needed to be represented in the Nationals but his decision to include Gouda was considered risky. However, Al-Khatib apparently had faith in the young girl who seems to have accepted the challenge bravely and went on downing her opponents one after the other until she reached the final to take the title.
The Nationals victory in particular turned Gouda into an overnight sensation, not only in the media but on social media. She has become a tigress in competitions who fears no opponent as she “just plays and wins”.
Gouda took to Twitter to challenge none other than Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah to play against him. And the Egypt winger replied to her tweet, saying that he accepts the challenge, jokingly suggesting playing against his five-year-old daughter Mecca.
President of the Egyptian Table Tennis Federation Moataz Ashour congratulated Gouda on her achievement and for making Egypt proud on the international level while also thanking Zamalek’s Abdel-Aziz for leading Egypt to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games through the African qualifications. Abdel-Aziz and Meshref led Egypt to the gold medal in the African Games which took place in Morocco in August.
A few months ago, Gouda was the highlight of the African Junior and Cadet Championships which were held in the Ghanaian capital Accra. She captured the attention of fans and officials when she claimed the U-13 gold medal in the girls’ single event.
Currently ranked 28 in the under-15 girls’ world rankings, she has become an increasingly familiar face in the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Junior Circuit, especially when she led Egypt to a convincing opening success in the cadet girls’ team event against Togo.
It has been a very busy year for the Egyptian sensation. In addition to competing in Africa, Gouda has played in Asia and Europe. In February on the ITTF World Junior Circuit she competed in Bahrain and Sweden. In Bahrain she was a semi-finalist in both the junior girls’ singles and cadet girls’ singles events. Later in the month in Sweden she secured first place in her initial stage junior girls’ singles group before experiencing a first round defeat. However, in a very competitive cadet girls’ singles event, she progressed to the quarter-finals.
“I am here for the title and nothing can stop me. I have been looking forward to this opportunity. I have it now. Nothing can prevent me from fulfilling my dream of winning my first continental title in Ghana,” she had said at the African Championships in Ghana.
After defeating Nigeria’s Sukurat Aryelbegan (11-2, 11-5, 11-4, 11-7), Gouda overcame fellow countrywoman Farida Badawi (11-7, 13-11, 11-1, 9-11, 11-2) to secure the title.
“I felt I could win particularly playing against my teammate. Most times in Egypt, we always meet in the final and it is always a close match. I am so happy that I won today because it was a very tough match. In most matches, my mum sits close to the table but I told her to go up higher so that I would not see her. This really helped me to focus. I am so happy that I won the cadet title having won the African Hopes last year,” Gouda added.
In recognition of her talent, the blonde Egyptian was selected by the ITTF to represent Egypt and Africa in an international camp for promising players and to participate in the U-12 World Championship held in Oman in July.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 3 October, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.